The fate of the Ettehadiya defendants remains uncertain following a series of conflicting statements made in reaction to a list of defendants supposedly to be released soon.
State-run newspaper Al-Gomhorriya had reported early Tuesday morning that the Ettehadiya defendants were to be pardoned, publishing a list of names as part of the report.
Defense lawyer Halim Heneish meanwhile told Mada Masr that the attorney general at the East Cairo Prosecution had told him and another lawyer that a list of defendants to be released would be announced within hours — some of whom were serving sentences for violating the Protest Law.
However, the attorney general later retracted his statements, Heneish claimed, denying that there is even a list. He added that if defendants were to be released, they would be in cases outside of Cairo — therefore ruling out the Ettehadiya case.
The list published by Al-Gomhorriya had included award-winning activist Yara Sallam, who was arrested along with 22 others while marching to the Ettehadiya Presidential Palace last June. The 23 defendants are sentenced to two years in prison with two years’ probation, following an appeal on their initial three-year sentence.
A judicial source had confirmed to Mada Masr that the defendants in the Ettehadiya case have been ordered for release and their sentences suspended pending a ruling by the Court of Cassation.
Member of the defense team Tareq al-Awady also told privately owned newspaper Al-Badeya that the list of people to be released only included 22 of the 23 defendants from the Ettehadiya case.
However, Awady added that he expects an amendment to the decision to be issued, to include the 23rd defendant. He stated that he went to the attorney general’s office to confirm this, and was told the decision was now with the Prison Authority. He said the defendants would most likely be released on Tuesday and Wednesday.
Mohamed Eleiwa, spokesperson at the Prisons Authority, told Mada Masr that they had not received any decisions from the general prosecutor.
However, Eleiwa did add that news of the release would concern defendants who are serving sentences for violating the Protest Law — but who were not involved in criminal cases and sentenced in a criminal court.
The defendants in the case also include well-known activist Sanaa Saif, as well as Omar Morsi, who suffered a head injury during a previous protest, and activist Nahed Sherif who was arrested for protesting in 2012 and was released after two years — only to be arrested again three months later.
The defendants were charged with participating in an unauthorized protest, violating the provisions of the Protest Law, instigating unrest, the destruction of public and private property, the possession of weapons and explosives, resisting authorities and assaulting security forces.
However, according to eyewitnesses, the Ettehadiya protest was peaceful until the protesters were attacked by unknown assailants, followed by police forces, who dispersed the protest and arrested demonstrators.
The Protest Law has come under fierce criticism from activists and international rights organizations as it is seen to violate the constitutional right to assembly, as guaranteed by the Constitution. The National Council for Human Rights has called for the abolishment or amendment of the Protest Law, as has the New York-based Human Rights Watch.